In the spotlight
Tommy Talton finds success after years in the background

Throughout much of the 1970s, there weren't many music companies as successful as Macon's Capricorn Records, which made "Southern Rock" a household term and created superstars out of members of the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie and Elvin Bishop, among others.

But lurking in the background at the label's studios on Broadway were some equally talented musicians and singers, including Chuck Leavell, Randall Bramblett, Bonnie Bramlett, Scott Boyer, Paul Hornsby, Johnny Sandlin, Les Dudek and Bill Stewart.

Though not as celebrated as the now-legendary figures from that time and place, these auxiliary musicians did as much to shape the sound that made Capricorn, and Macon, famous around the world.

And then there's Tommy Talton.

A Florida native, Talton left home at 17 to pursue a career in music and in time found himself in Macon during those heady days, when he and Boyer formed the critically-acclaimed (though somewhat commercially ignored) band Cowboy and he contributed his guitar abilities to albums and tours by Greg Allman, Dickey Betts, Kitty Wells, Martin Mull and many others.

He is perhaps best known for his guitar work on Allman's first solo release, 1973's "Laid Back."

Talton, who spent most of the 1990s working in Europe, is now firmly planted back on his home soil and is taking his blend of bluesy rock with Southern spice on the road, with a concert set for Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Social Circle Theatre in downtown Social Circle.

"I just want to get out and play in front of more people," said the veteran guitarist, singer and songwriter. "Most of the time, people who don't know anything about us leave as fans after they've seen us play."

The concert, which will feature opening act Vinyl, is expected to showcase Talton's solo recorded work, including his 2008 release "Tommy Talton in Europe," much of which was recorded during his long residency there.

"We'll be doing lots of original stuff, including songs from 'Tommy Talton in Europe' and some other things I've been working on," said Talton, who has had recent sessions in studios operated by his drummer, David Keith, and Capricorn mainstay Sandlin, who has produced five platinum and 10 gold albums, and now runs a studio in Decatur, Ala.

Talton, who will be joined on stage by Keith, Tony Giordano (keyboards, vocals) and Brandon Peeples (bass, vocals), said his young bandmates are extraordinary accompanists.

"I'm fortunate to have been able to find these young guys" he said. "They play well beyond their years."

Talton said that he went to Europe in 1991 at the urging of a Belgian musician he met at a club in Florida, and performed extensively throughout Germany, France, Luxembourg and Belgium with the Rebelizers, made up of members of Albert Lee's European back-up band.

"I went over for a six-week tour and never left," Talton chuckles, adding he returned to his home state of Florida in 2001. "When the tour was over, I didn't want to stop playing, so we started the Rebelizers, put a CD together and did some more touring."

After returning from his long overseas adventure, Talton laid low for a few years but began working his way back into the music business alongside Sandlin (bass), Hornsby (keyboards), Stewart (drums) and Boyer (guitar, vocals) as the Capricorn Rhythm Section, which still occasionally performs. Throughout the many years and the many miles, Talton has maintained warm relationships with his former colleagues.

"It's much more than friendship," he said. "We went through a lot together and we all love each other."

Talton added that while he never thought he was helping to produce rock 'n' roll history, he did know that he was onto something special back in those Capricorn days.

"We were the ones making the music," he said. "We didn't know we were making history at the time. But what made the music special was that we all cared, and when you care, you play it from the heart. The music would tend to stand up to the test of time because it was made by people who care."

The five albums released by Cowboy have also resonated with music fans for many decades, and a recent episode of the NBC-TV comedy "My Name is Earl" included the band's best-known song, "Please Be With Me," which featured key contributions by the late Duane Allman.

"Back then, (Capricorn Studios) was like our living room," he said. "We'd either be working on something of our own or we'd be working with somebody else on their stuff. Duane came to the studio when we were recording that song. It's exciting to think that ('Earl') has been able to introduce the song to a whole new audience.

"I'm proud of all the Cowboy stuff. We didn't sell a lot of records but I can play anywhere in the country and I'll run into somebody that will tell me my music changed their life or helped them through some bad times. That's a good feeling."

Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If you go

What: The Tommy Talton Band, with opening band Vinyl

When: 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31

Where: Social Circle Theatre at 650 Ashley Drive off of Hightower Trail in Social Circle

Cost: Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance or at the door

Info: For ticket information and directions, call 770-464-2269 or visit www.socialcircletheater.com. For more information on Tommy Talton, visit www.tommytaltonband.com.